Edgar Lee Masters
Banner Of Men Who Were Free - Poem by Edgar Lee Masters
Flag of the great republic, banner of men who were free!
Carried aloft for freedom in many a bloody gorge;
Torn by the shot of tyrants in battle by land and sea,
The rallying hope of our fathers by Valley Forge.
But what is it but a rag, save it emblem the higher law?
Striped with the red of blood, flecked with the stars of war.
The ensign of might alone, to be held by the people in awe,
And cursed by savage chieftans in lands afar.
Little we owe to the England of this her lesser day,
But much to the field of Naseby, the spirit of Runnymede;
The bold adventurous Angles, who never shrank from the fray
When Liberty cried aloud in her hour of need.
Aloft on the dome of truth, in the city of brotherly love,
A sign to the world of hate, of Christ enthroned in the state,
Symbol of peace, like the olive leaf and the messenger dove,
Flew the flag of our fathers--the sign of a just debate!
But they dare to raise its standard on a field where the battle smoke,
Is rent with the groans of the slain, like the fallen of Lexington;
Where the eagles have traveled afar from the vultures of war which croak
O'er the bodies of those who died for the prize that it should have won?
Flag of a noble race, no longer our flag in truth,
Borne by a hostile hand in a cause of shame,
Give us the banner that flapped in the eyes of the nation's youth
And sent a thrill through the world of its faultless flame!
Yet, if its soul shall perish, take it for what it was --
For the shroud of those who worship the dead ideal;
Dead to lie with the dead beneath the recurrent grass,
No longer to grieve for the lost and no more to feel.
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